State Legislatures Still Strike Down Medicaid Plan

The special session focused on Medicaid expansion can be seen as partially productive, as The Washington Post  is reporting that state legislatures have come together to patch the $2.4 billion dollar hole in the state’s budget.

Partisanship was brief however, as Medicaid expansion saw a bitter debate and the bill was ultimately killed before it ever got the chance to go a formal vote. This issue was the primary reason of calling the special session and was among Governor Terry McAuliffe’s top legislative priorities. The expansion aimed to provide health coverage to 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

The heated debate made it clear that neither Democrats nor Republicans had changed their stance on the issue, since the early summer stalemate that almost caused the shutdown of the state’s government.

House Republicans utilized a procedural move that prohibited the bill from advancing to a final vote. The bill died in a 64-33 vote against “engrossing the bill” which means it was not allowed to move on to the Senate.

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Virginia Looks to Sue Bank for Defrauding Taxpayers

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is reporting that Virginia is planning to sue some of the largest commerical banks in the world, including Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs & Co. among others, for committing fraud against taxpayers that led to the bursting of the real estate bubble and the country’s recession.

Attorney General Mark R. Herring said that “Banks were packaging mortgages into securities or bundles of mortgages at a breakneck pace, selling them off to investors as a sturdy, solid, top-rated investments that would continue to rise in value.”

However, many of these deals were sub-prime loans and in the rush to sell more and more of these securities many of the commercial banks lied about the quality of the mortgages.

Herring’s office also released that these securities started to be bought in 2004 and just 6 years later in 2010 Virginia was forced to sell these “toxic” securities resulting in the loss of $383 million.

All of the information regarding the lawsuit was kept secret until Tuesday due to the Fraud Against Taxpayers act, but now the accused banks have the chance to respond to the accusation and negotiate terms for a possible settlement.

Medicaid Expansion Will Go To Vote

The Washington Post is reporting that Virginia’s Republican leaders in the House of Delegates are planning to take the issue to the floor as early as today in the special legislative session.

While many are not expecting the $2 billion-a-year expansion to pass, some conservative legislatures are saying its a possibility. The situation may resemble the tax hike that unexpectedly passed when Mark Warner was the governor over 10 years ago.

Months after the summer stalemate over the expansion McAuliffe and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) debuted the bipartisan plan. The plan would close the $2.4 billion budget shortfall, a big concern for many Republicans. However, there is not indication that they have warmed up to the expansion plan.

Howell said that he called the special session in order to give the issue of Medicaid expansion a fair hearing; however he has expressed that there are not any expansion bills that he favored.

Warner’s Tensions with Arlington’s Young Democrats Was Misunderstanding

Ed Gillespie was handed and opportunity to scrutinize his opponent for U.S. Senate, Democratic incumbent Mark Warner, reports The Washington Post. 

The President of the Young Democrats, Max Burns, wanted to have Warner for a meet-and-greet with the group. The candidate’s campaign took this as a request to hold a fundraiser for Warner, and they responded that their goal would be to raise &25,000.

This where messages began to be misconstrued. The campaign’s misunderstanding of the request and their response angered Burns causing him to send a tweet saying “@MarkWarner – @ArlingtonYDs would’ve loved to have you chat with us about VA’s young professionals, but it came with a $25,000 price tag”

Republican blog The Virginia Virtucon, escalated the situation when they retweeted the message and wrote the following statement:

“The Arlington Young Democrats invited Sen. Mark Warner to speak to them. You know, because they’re the kind of people that’ll knock on doors, make phone calls, and generally fight in trenched to get people like Mark Warner elected. The Mark Warner campaign said sure – if you can raise $25,000.”

However, the Warner campaign does not charge for meet-and-greet events. The miscommunication was was attributed to “the nuances of communicating over social media.” Burns quickly retracted his statement through a tweet saying “If I have to own this then I have to. I’ll suck up the fact that we did this wrong.”

The situation has now been reconciled and both the Warner campaign and The Arlington Young Democrats are looking forward to working with one another.

Officials Hopeful of Bus System’s Potential

The Richmond Times-Dispatch  reports that the new Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit system has great potential to solve problems of unemployment and poverty and rejuvenate the region, according to officials.

“We’re going to make jobs available to people,” says Richmond mayor Dwight C. Jones.The new system will cut travel times and reduce traffic congestion, resulting in a faster public transportation option that will help people find jobs and get to work.

The federal grant for the program was announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. the $24.9 million dollar grant will cover almost half of the projected $54 million cost. Officials are aiming to have the line running by 2018.

The new bus rapid transit systems work to incorporate flexibility of street-running busses with the efficiency of light-rail systems. The new lines are expected to reduce up to 15 minutes off a trip on its 7.6 mile route.

In addition to creating jobs and making them more accessible, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said, “What this is going to do is open up the whole Richmond area,” adding that “it will help you have a good night out. Some of us do like to go out at night.”

While the overall impact can not yet be measured, state officials and Richmond residents are optimistic about the positive effects the new system has the potential to have.

David Brat Stays Committed to His Principles

It has been almost three months since House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking primary loss to David Brat, the Tea Party candidate and Economic professor at Randolph-Macon College. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that despite all of the media attention, Brat remains steadfast in his political principles.

Brat’s win over Cantor, a 14-year Congressional veteran, who out raised him $5.7 million to $231,000 baffled political pundits and gained both Brat and the Tea Party national news. “It’s still amazing,” Brat observed in a recent interview.

The unexpected win and subsequent media attention following his win caused Brat to trip up when asked certain policy questions, such as his position on arming Syrian rebels and raising out the minimum wage. His lack of preparedness alarmed many.

Since then Brat has worked hard to prepare himself for the intensification of the campaign. He was worked hard to tackle foreign and domestic policy issues and delivered a number of stump speeches. Brat has also tried as hard as possible to avoid media scrutiny, which has made it difficult for him to establish a public profile.

However, despite critics and skeptics Brat plans on running his campaign on the Tea Party ideals.  Brat remains a free-market conservative who is pro-life and hard on immigration. He has remained critical of immigration overhaul, and many political commentators would even contribute Brat’s characterization of Cantor as soft on immigration as one of the reasons he won over the incumbent.

Brat’s dethroning of Cantor has already given more strength to the rising Tea Party. A win for Brat would even further the influence and credibility of the party, as well as cause a identity conversation among the struggling Republican Party.

Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services Will Step Down

Paul Galanti has announced that he will step down from his role as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services effective next month, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He has held the office for over 4 years, beginning the job in April 2010. Galanti’s wife of 51 years, Phyllis, was instrumental in fighting for her husband’s release and the release of other prisoners. The Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center was built in the couple’s honor at the Virginia War memorial.

Galanti served in the Vietnam War and became a nationally recognized prisoner of war after his U.S. Navy Skyhawk was shot down over North Vietnam in 1966. He was held as a POW for almost seven years.

Governor McAuliffe said of Galanti, “He led our Department of Veterans Services with great skill, compassion, and dedication and has ensured the commonwealth is well-postured to continue to serve our rapidly growing veteran population. Paul will be greatly missed, and I wish him well in his long-delayed and well-deserved retirement.”

Congressional Candidate Advocates for Tighter Gun Control Laws

Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer is the Democratic candidate in the state’s 8th district, vying for the seat left open by U.S. Rep. Jim Moran’s (D-Va) retirement. “Eight Ideas in the Eighth” are Beyer’s ideas he is highlighting for voters. First on that list are changes in gun laws, reports The Washington Post.

As Beyer spoke to a small crowd outside his office in Fairfax county, he shared that 30,000 deaths across the nation can be contributed to gun violence, with a majority of them being suicides, noting the necessity for stricter regulations. “Only one-tenth of one percent of the guns in America are used in crimes, so our focus has to be that one-tenth of one percent,” said Beyer.

The candidate’s plan includes revoking the right to gun ownership for people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors. The federal government already does not allow people with a conviction of domestic violence to own guns; Beyer’s plan would expand upon domestic violence to also encompass violence inflicted on unmarried or intimate partners and former partners who are not currently living together.

Beyer is also advocating for states to pass laws that would help to make it easier for law enforcement officials and family members to petition for gun restraining orders against people that pose a dangerous threat to themselves or others.

A Quarter of a Million Virginians Could Face Canceled Health Care Policies

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is reporting that 250,000 Virginia residents will be receiving a notice by the end of November informing them that their health insurance policies will be cancelled. Their plans don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act and state law.

The people who have the policies in question were allowed to renew their plans last year but will not have the same option once they expire this year. Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans, Doug Gray, told the Times-Dispatch that “the notice will give policyholders the option to buy heath plans with similar coverage that complies with federal and state insurance laws.

This issue has restarted the partisan argument over what he effects of the health care law signed into effect by President Obama in 2010.

Gray said in a statement about the forced switch “I don’t call that cancellation-I call that an adjustment to the new law.”

The cancellation notices have been a tool Republicans are using against Sen. Mark Warner (D) in his re-election campaign, criticizing him for his support of the Affordable Care Act.

Del. Kathy J. Byron, (R-Campbell), who is the chairman of the Virginia Health Insurance Reform Commission has said “This law is causing untold heartache and genuine hardships for thousands of Virginians,” and that “It is becoming increasingly clear that the best option would be to repeal this poorly crafted law and start over.”

New Poll Projects Comfy Lead for Warner

The Washington Post  is reporting that a new poll released by the Wason Center for Public Policy shows that the incumbent Sen. Mark Warner maintains a 22 point lead over his challenger Ed Gillespie with less than 2 months before Election Day.

The poll showed Warner leading Gillespie 53 percent to 31, roughly the same margin as a poll taken in January. This new poll also shows that 5 percent of voters are supporting Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate and 11 percent are undecided.

This midterm election has been characterized by Republicans capitalizing on the dissatisfaction with Congress and President Obama in order to win the Senate majority. The Wason Center directo Quentin Kidd said “Warner conservatives” are sticking with the Democrat despite these efforts. Voters have not been swayed by Gillespie’s criticism of Warner’s voting record, where he has voted with Obama 97 percent of the time.

The poll shows that 91 percent of Virginian Democrats are supporting Warner, while Gillespie only holds 80 percent of the state’s Republicans. Kidd remarks that “Warner not only has the solid backing of his own partisans, but also significant levels of support among Republicans and ideological moderates and conservatives.”